Coming to terms with 9/11’s horrors

Undated Film Still Handout from Extremely Loud And Extremely Close. Pictured: Thomas Horn as Oskar Schell and Tom Hanks as Thomas Schell. See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews.

Undated Film Still Handout from Extremely Loud And Extremely Close. Pictured: Thomas Horn as Oskar Schell and Tom Hanks as Thomas Schell. See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews.

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THE surprise inclusion among the nine contenders for Best Picture, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Cert 12A) continues Stephen Daldry’s extraordinary record at the Oscars with all four of his films being nominated.

The director of Billy Elliot once again has a young boy centre stage in his film which also has a connection with the Holocaust which he tackled in The Reader. But the big theme here is New York coming to terms with the horrors of 9/11 which is a subject which seems to have daunted other film-makers. It is based on a best-selling novel by Jonathan Safran Foer which itself was criticised for exploiting a global tragedy.

Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is the 11-year-old son of a man who died in the World Trade Centre and not surprisingly he and his mother (Sandra Bullock) are consumed with grief, and sadly it seems to have driven them apart.

One day Oskar comes across in his dad’s possessions a mysterious key inside an envelope marked Black and determines to somehow find the lock it will open. His father (played in flashbacks by Tom Hanks) delighted in setting the boy puzzles and challenges to help him overcome his timidity and irrational fears (there is a hint he might have Asperger’s Syndrome) and so he takes this on as a similar quest, hoping it will lead him to a hidden message from his father.

After counting 472 Blacks in the New York telephone book, he resolves to visit every one of them and off he goes every Saturday without telling his mother. Eventually he is joined by an old man (Max von Sydow) who cannot or will not speak, scribbling out notes or holding up his palms on which is tattoed no and yes.

The film is undoubtedly touching but on the other hand the plot is riddled with contrivances (not least the extraordinary freedom Oskar has to travel the city) and in the end its revelations seem strangely underwhelming. It’s a film which turns out to be a lot less profound that it purports to be.

Ian Soutar